The purpose with this blog is to expose the claim of modern Islamic apologists that the Qur'an is miracolous in its prediction of what they claim resembles modern science.

Monday, 10 May 2010

The Qur’an and the miracle of the female talking ant

A number of Islamic proponents have proposed the idea that Sura 27: 18-19 depicturing the prophet Solomon hearing the words of a female ant reveals two clear modern scientific discoveries, which were virtually unheard off prior to Islam and not confirmed until the recent era.

This is the passage:

When they approached the valley of the ants, one ant said, "O you ants, go into your homes, lest you get crushed by Solomon and his soldiers, without perceiving." He smiled and laughed at her statement, and said, "My Lord, direct me to be appreciative of the blessings You have bestowed upon me and my parents, and to do the righteous works that please You. Admit me by Your mercy into the company of Your righteous servants" (Sura 27: 18-19).

Muslim exponents presuppose two miraculous predictions here:

1. The ant can communicate by talking

2. The ant is a female

Both claims are drastically portrayed in this youtube video in a response to the ‘answering-islam’ website:

Lets assess these claims:

Does the Qur’an predict the female nature of worker ants?

That the Qur’an addresses the ant as feminine is accurate, it is also accurate that the worker ants are females. However, contrary to what Muslims believe this idiom is not suggesting that the Qur’an describes a female creature. In a number of languages not only human female and males are referred to by their gender as male or female but entire species and objects are referred to as either male, female or neuter gender. In the Arabic language the ‘ant’ (naml) is simply generic female, it does not indicate natural gender or a biological female or male at least not in its singular and this particular ant is referred to as singular.

For further study read:

This completely debunks and refutes the popular claim that the Qur’an predicts the discovery that worker ants are female.

Does the talking ant predict modern scientific discoveries?

Similar exaggeration is utilized to introduce divine miraculous revelation through the prediction of a talking ant. Solomon supposedly heard an ant warning the ant community to escape into their dwellings do evade Solomon’s proceeding army.

To prove their case Muslims have recently turned to a very recent discovery which involved microphones to detect the communication between ants. The discovery revealed that some ants indeed communicate with sounds.

A Muslim youtube which appears to represent Osama Abdallah’s website ‘answering-Christianity’ praises this discovery:

This particular and very recent discovery which Muslim exponents quote is found here:

Unfortunately for the Muslim the claims are typically exaggerated and the discovery does not effectively render that much support to the Muslim use of the passage.

In the article we read:

‘Professor Thomas said it remained unclear how much the ants relied on sound for language but he suspected that further analysis would reveal a wider vocabulary than had been seen yet. “The most important discovery is that within the ant colony different sounds can provoke different reactions,” he said. “I would be very surprised if we didn't get different types of sound. “It's within the power of the ant to play different tunes by changing the rhythm with which they

Hence, far from what the Qur’an supposes, ants do not talk, they make sounds by rubbing body parts together. The sound might according to professor Thomas ‘provoke different reactions’.

However Thomas also concedes that it still remains unclear to what extent ants rely ‘on sound for language’ and that the variety in sounds is still a matter undiscovered.

Hence contrary to what the Qur’an states an ant cannot by talking vocabulary warn a community of ants about an imminent disaster.

But there is more, lets for a moment presume that the Qur’an actually provides insight into a natural fact that virtually remained unknown until recent times; are when then correct to deem the Qur’an as miraculous in its statement?

Not really!

A pre-Islamic scientific description of much greater details than the Qur’an describes this same ability to ants and appears much closer in word and details to the modern discoveries of Professor Thomas and others.

The text is found in the writings of the Christian philosopher Origen in his polemics and apologetical response to the pagan Celsus in his 'Against Celsus', chapter 84, written in the third century and therefore predates Islam with 350 years; it reads:

And since he asserts that, "when ants die, the survivors set apart a special place (for their interment), and that their ancestral sepulchres such a place is," we have to answer, that the greater the laudations which he heaps upon irrational animals, so much the more does he magnify (although against his will) the work of that reason which arranged all things in order, and points out the skill which exists among men, and which is capable of adorning by its reason even the gifts which are bestowed by nature on the irrational creation. But why do I say "irrational," since Celsus is of opinion that these animals, which, agreeably to the common ideas of all men, are termed irrational, are not really so? Nor does he regard the ants as devoid of reason, who professed to speak of "universal nature," and who boasted of his truthfulness in the inscription of his book. For, speaking of the ants conversing with one another, he uses the following language: "And when they meet one another they enter into conversation, for which reason they never mistake their way; consequently they possess a full endowment of reason, and some common ideas on certain general subjects, and a voice by which they express themselves regarding accidental things."337 Now conversation between one man and another is carried on by means of a voice, which gives expression to the meaning intended, and which also gives utterances concerning what are called "accidental things; "but to say that this was the case with ants would be a most ridiculous assertion.

Notice that Origen in his writings against Celsus 350 years prior to Islam describes a view of his time that ants talk and converse with each other:

For, speaking of the ants conversing with one another, he uses the following language: "And when they meet one another they enter into conversation, for which reason they never mistake their way; consequently they possess a full endowment of reason, and some common ideas on certain general subjects, and a voice by which they express themselves regarding accidental things." Ants were in fact considered unique in the writings of antiquity; in this same passage Origin described them as highly intelligent, possessing gardens, etc. Plato, Aristotle, Pliny and others referred to the ant as a political animal and Aelian the Greek-Roman philosopher ‘noted that ant colonies and ant highways were very much like the famous buildings and roads of Greece and Crete’

While most of these noted that ants communicated by other means rather than sounds, the source of Origen nevertheless reveals that speaking ants was a theory that existed 400 years prior to Muhammad and indeed the effective observation of ants within that era might certainly have led to such a conclusion by a number the thinkers of antiquity.

Yet I am not proposing that Muhammad or another Qur’anic author borrowed straight from Origen or even from an oral tradition deriving from such a source or even that the Qur’anic author had access to Origen’s writings. The Qur’anic description appears much more fairytale-like than then description of Origen and apart from Origen there were indeed tales existing prior to Islam of talking ants.

Hence I am inclined to believe that the author of the Qur’an did not depend upon a Greek Philosophical source.

Here ancient tales fit Islam a much as philosophy, Islam is a religion in which trees bow before prophets and where the dinner on your table has the capability to speak to you and stones possess the ability to steel you possessions. Solomon in Jewish fairytales possessed the ability to communicate with animals, to understand them and even to mobilise them in his battles against human enemies, hence the reason for this story. It reveals nothing of scientific significance but merely the belief that Solomon had extraordinary abilities. Desperate Muslim apologists read far too much into this fairytale.

Osama Abdallah, Haran Yahya and others nevertheless propose that the passage is miraculous in its incredible prediction of modern science; just take Osama Abdallah for example:

Again, the Holy Quran and Islam are filled with scientific statements and notions. These are statements of Allah Almighty describing how He created things on earth and in the Universe. What's most amazing is that all of these scientific statements and notions had been proven to be in perfect agreement with science and our modern-day scientific discoveries. Allah Almighty made the Noble Quran be Prophet Muhammad's (peace be upon him) Everlasting Divine Miracle and proof for Prophethood. The Holy Book certainly stood the test of time 1,500 years ago with Its Claims, Prophecies and Miraculous language eloquence, and it does again and again in our day today with Its overwhelming agreement with science and discoveries that were not known to man 1,500 years ago.

We have already refuted Osama Abdallah here with the writings of Origen. The idea that ants could communicate by sound and speech existed already 400 years prior to Islam.

If Abdallah is correct then Origen’s source was indeed inspired by God some 400 years prior to Islam:

For, speaking of the ants conversing with one another, he uses the following language: "And when they meet one another they enter into conversation, for which reason they never mistake their way; consequently they possess a full endowment of reason, and some common ideas on certain general subjects, and a voice by which they express themselves regarding accidental things.

I am sure that Osama Abdallah will not ascribe such divine honour to the pagan Celsus whom Origen quotes in his writings, as to the Qur’an, despite the fact that Origen provided more insight and details than the Qur’an?

Furthermore, Osama Abdallah also needs to consider the divine inspiration upon pre-Islamic Roman writers and their tales, such as Aesop who wrote the fable ‘The ant and the Grasshopper’:

The Fable reads:

‘The ants were spending a fine winter's day drying grain collected in the summertime. A Grasshopper, perishing with famine, passed by and earnestly begged for a little food. The Ants inquired of him, "Why did you not treasure up food during the summer?' He replied, "I had not leisure enough. I passed the days in singing." They then said in derision: "If you were foolish enough to sing all the summer, you must dance supperless to bed in the winter."’

It is obvious that the Qur’anic description is much more of the same nature as the tale of Aesop rather than that of Origen, yet neither Muslims nor scientists would recognise the tale of Aesop to provide us with anything of scientific nature. Here Muslims might argue that ants deploy the ability to communicate to each other and not to grasshoppers, however Aesop does describe the ants as communicating by language or sounds.

Note here, I am not saying that the author of the Qur’an plagiarized Aesop’s tale, I am pointing out that such tales were common in Muhammad’s time.

So, Harun Yahya and Osama Abdallah, do you guys 1) recognise the source of Origen and Aesop as divinely inspired? 2) Do you still claim that the ability of ants to speak in detailed language (if that should be proven right in future) is a scientific fact unheard of until the rise of Islam?

The above sources do not agree with you and I suggest that since your claims have been debunked and refuted that you remove these particular deceptive articles about the ant from your websites and ones again apologize to the readers you have mislead.


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